The great German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said, "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." This phrase represented a challenge to Lord John Browne, who has made a career of predicting global business trends. In his book, Connect: How Companies Succeed by Engaging Radically with Society, Browne examines three current trends and how they predict our global economic future.
First is artificial intelligence: will automation increase to the point where companies themselves behave robotically? And what will the impact of automation be on workers and their communities? Browne argues that companies are members of human communities and must therefore not act robotically, and he shares an interesting conversation with Tim Berners Lee, creator of the Internet itself.
Two, the center of economic gravity shifts between continents. At the moment, says Browne, it is shifting from the west to the east. That's a good thing as shifting economies means resources reach areas that are relatively poor. And it provides an opportunity for companies to engage with entirely new communities.
Finally, the world faces existential problems like never before. From obesity to climate change, businesses have more opportunities — and more obligations — than ever before to earn their keep. Ultimately, says Browne, companies must benefit the societies who charter their existence in the first place.